Levi Randolph had made 35 consecutive free throws to open the season and with two at the end of last year had 37, two short of the Alabama record of 39 by Alvin Lee in 1988. Randolph was fouled with 56.2 seconds to play and made the first, but his second to tie Lee’s mark spun out.
Randolph was one of four Bama players in double figures as the Crimson Tide improved its record to 5-1. South Florida fell to 5-2.
Alabama will play at Xavier in Cincinnati Saturday night. The Tide returns to Tuscaloosa against Tennessee Tech Dec. 13.
Alabama was led by Rodney Cooper with 20 points. Ricky Tarrant added 17, Randolph had 14, and Justin Coleman had 11. Jimmie Taylor had 11 rebounds for the Tide. Michael Kessens didn’t make it into double figures, but had 9 points and 8 rebounds.
Tarrant had eight assists as the Tide had 18 in the game and Tarrant had five of Bama’s 10 steals.
Both teams scored 62 points from the field, but Alabama continued its outstanding free throw shooting, 20-25 (80 per cent) for the difference in the game. Even with Randolph’s miss. USF made 9-19, only 47.4 per cent.
Alabama was 27-63 from the field for 42.9 per cent while the Bulls made 28-56, 50 per cent. South Florida was also 50 per cent on three-point shots, 6-12. Alabama made 8-25 treys, 32 per cent.
Alabama had only a 38-34 advantage in rebounding, but committed 16 turnovers to 21 for the visitors. Bama scored 26 points off turnovers, the Bulls 18. Alabama had an advantage in second chance points, 17-5, and in fast break points, 10-4. Scoring in the paint was about equal, Alabama 32, USF 30.
Alabama started the second half with perhaps the most entertaining play of the young season. Ricky Tarrant got the ball on a fast break, but put it high off the backboard for trailing Levi Randolph to dunk, giving Bama a 45-32 lead. (Late in the game the play was tried again, but Randolph slammed it off the back of the rim…as spectacular miss as had been the make.)
Otherwise, it was more businesslike than showtime, and late it was a little lazy as the Tide frittered away what had been a 19-point lead before pulling away at the end.
Alabama had a 43-32 lead to start the second half and the Tarrant-backboard-Randolph play seemed to ignite the team and the crowd, but Bama didn’t sustain the excitement.
South Florida cut the lead to 8 before the five minute mark had passed as Bama had three trips with no points. That lead would eventually be cut to 6 points before Randolph stopped the bleeding with a short jumper.
Justin Coleman made a layup and free throw; Randolph and Riley Norris hit back-to-back three-pointers; and Kessens scored on a beautiful assist from Tarrant to make it 64-45, a 19-point lead, with 9:10 remaining.
The Bulls fought back – so much so that with under three minutes to play Bama Coach Anthony Grant put his starting lineup on the floor – but South Florida never got closer than eight.
When Randolph made his free throw inside the minute mark, it was a 16-point game at 82-66, but the Tide surrendered a three-pointer and an uncontested run-out layup in the final minute to trim the final margin to only 11.
Alabama scored the first six points of the game, but struggled through the first five minutes to get any distance. The Tide was scoring in a variety of ways – nice assists for inside baskets and good outside shooting – while at the other end the Bulls were scratching out putacks and getting the occasional fast break or jumpers.
Bama made it a 10-point lead with freshman Justin Coleman hitting a pair of three-point shots and two free throws for a 10-point lead at 32-22, but South Florida fought back to single digits before Ricky Tarrant hit a pair of free throws for a 38-28 lead with 3:30 to play.
Michael Kessens had a free throw and two nice inside baskets for a 43-28 lead with 1:11 to play, but the Bulls made the last two baskets of the half – the second when Bama turned it over with just over five seconds to play – to cut the lead to 43-32 at intermission.
TIDE NOTES: There was a new starter in the lineup for Alabama with Ricky Tarrant getting the nod at point guard where freshman Justin Coleman had been No. 1. The rest of the lineup was guards Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, forward Shannon Hale, and center Jimmie Taylor.
Guard Retin Obasohan missed the game as he continues to rehabilitate a leg injury.